Wingo, Wood's Have High Hopes for Ford 400 at Homestead The way crew chief Donnie Wingo is looking at this weekend's Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he and Bill Elliott and the crew of the Wood Brothers' No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford...
Wingo, Wood's Have High Hopes for Ford 400 at Homestead
The way crew chief Donnie Wingo is looking at this weekend's Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he and Bill Elliott and the crew of the Wood Brothers' No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion have some unfinished business from Charlotte to take care of.
The Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway was the first race that Wingo and Elliott worked together on the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion, but an electrical problem in the opening laps kept them from seeing the full potential of their car. Once the repairs were made, so many laps had been lost that Wingo and Elliott essentially turned that race into a test sessions, trying chassis combinations that can be used in future races like this weekend's Ford 400.
Wingo and Elliott will be reunited this weekend in the Ford 400 for the first time since Charlotte, and Elliott will be driving the same Ford Fusion that rookie Trevor Bayne drove at Texas, where he finished 17th in his Sprint Cup debut and was 2nd only to Kasey Kahne, in green flag passes, according to NASCAR's loop data. Bayne passed 140 cars, with Kasey passing 145.
Wingo said that the car he's taking to Homestead has the potential to be even better because Doug Yates and the people who prepare Ford's FR9 racing engines have continued to make gains every week, with the engines pumping out more power while also proving to be durable.
"Since mid-season, we've seen a lot of gains with the FR9," Wingo said. "It's been big."
The Wood Brothers played a major role in the development of the FR9, running the new engine in early season races, before it was used by the rest of the Ford camp.
Team co-owner Len Wood said he and his team made a commitment late last year to run the FR9 in their No. 21 Fusion. Since they planned to run a partial schedule anyway, they were in a better position to try something new.
"If something went wrong, it wouldn't be the end of the world as far as points," Wood said.
That didn't become an issue as the FR9 passed its early tests with flying colors.
Wood said the new powerplant, which replaced one that was plenty potent, has been helpful in many ways. For instance, it tolerates higher temperatures, which allows teams to use more tape on the grill, and thereby improve the handling of their cars.
And while there's not a lot of data to indicate it has anything to do with the engine itself, the FR9 has proven to be a winner when it comes to gas mileage races. Carl Edwards proved that last week in winning the Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix.
"Carl Edwards has proven again that he's one of the best, but Bill Elliott is very good at mileage too," he said, pointing out that when Edwards won at Homestead in 2008 by stretching his fuel, Elliott got the Motorcraft Ford Fusion to run the same distance on the same tank of fuel and finished 12th.
But Wingo said a more likely issue for this edition of the Ford 400 will be tire wear and how to factor that into a team's strategy.
The veteran crew chief said the track at Homestead has become much more abrasive, and he predicts that if a caution flag flies as late as five to 10 laps to go, many teams will choose to pit for fresh rubber.
"The track has really weathered," he said. "Tire strategy will be one of the big keys at the end of the race."